Academic Writing & Citations

Joan Vinall-Cox at Pedagogical impact has posted about Academic Writing & Citations:

Academic writing has changed radically since I was an undergrad many years ago. When I wrote my Ph.D. thesis a year and a half ago, I made rich use of the capabilities of word-processing. I used Styles for my headings and for generating a table of content. I used the caption feature to describe the images I inserted, and to generate a table of figures. Of course I used the spell checker and the word count and all the flexibility of copy-and-paste. Plus I made sure the font was attractive and readable, and for my particular thesis, I used the font to gelp deliver the meaning. Writing with a word processor is more fun, more visual, and easier than the ugly old manual typewriter of my youth.

I also used EndNote to make my citing much easier and to generate my ‘Works Cited’, and I paid highly for the privilege; it was expensive. During the process of writing my thesis, I was forced to switch from an IBM laptop to a Mac iBook; (don’t ask.) I had to pay again for EndNote to get a Mac version. But anything was better than the picky work of sorting out the anal details of citing the the ‘Works Cited’.

She writes about her experience of academic writing and the tools that have made it easier, finishing with some comments about a new FireFox browser tool that helps with citations.

That literature review really is important

While I was looking for something else this evening I came across this article:
Boote, D. N., & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6), 3-15.
It’s available online as PDF from the link above. This extract summarises its thrust:

A thorough, sophisticated literature review is the foundation and inspiration for substantial, useful research. The complex nature of education research demands such thorough, sophisticated reviews. Although doctoral education is a key means for improving education research, the literature has given short shrift to the dissertation literature review. This article suggests criteria to evaluate the quality of dissertation literature reviews and reports a study that examined dissertations at three universities. Acquiring the skills and knowledge required to be education scholars, able to analyze and synthesize the research in a field of specialization, should be the focal, integrative activity of predissertation doctoral education. Such scholarship is a prerequisite for increased methodological sophistication and for improving the usefulness of education research.

As well as making the case for the importance of the literature review, the article lays out criteria that should be helpful for those preparing reviews and those charged with ensuring they are up to standard.

Practitioner Research and Evaluation Skills Training (PREST)

This resource, Practitioner Research and Evaluation Skills Training (PREST), has been developed by the Commonwealth of Learning:

The PREST materials are designed for use by two target groups – ODL practitioners wanting self-study or reference materials and training providers looking for flexible research training resources to integrate into a variety of training contexts (e.g., face-to-face workshops, e-learning or reference materials).

Although the materials are directed towards research and evaluation in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) they should be useful resources for those working in other areas. They cover the complete process from planning research and evaluation, through collection and analysis of quantitative, qualitative and mixed data, to reporting the outcomes.

NESTA Futurelab – Research – Literature reviews

NESTA Futurelab – Research – Literature reviews presents 13 reviews relevant to ICT in learning. Topics include mobile technologies, science education, thinking skills and more. It’s worth a look and that’s before digging further into the site which appears to have even more useful material. Let the site blurb speak for itself:

These publications offer a route map through the vast body of research into education and technology – a field that continues to grow in importance. They give a clear vision of where gaps in our understanding lie, where our knowledge base is weakest and future directions we need to follow to make best use of technology for learning.

They have been commissioned from outstanding academic researchers who summarise the key research findings and highlight the most important questions that need to be addressed in learning with technologies. The reports provide jargon-free discussions of the key issues and are written for educators, policy makers and software designers with an interest in identifying the most effective role for ICT in learning.

(Via OLDaily.)

Invisibility of knowledge work

Jim McGee writes at Enterprise Systems about The Invisibility of Knowledge Work:

For all the productivity gains that accrue to the digitization of knowledge work, one unintended consequence has been to make the execution of knowledge work essentially invisible, making it harder to manage and improve such work. Attacking that invisibility opens an important path to making knowledge work manageable and improvable.

Knowledge work is better understood as craft work; its products are valuable because they are creative and original. Delivering identical consulting reports to different clients is grounds for a lawsuit, not an example of good knowledge management practice.

In moving to e-mail, word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation tools, maintaining (preserving?) visibility of your knowledge work (at both the individual and workgroup level) requires conscious effort. An office full of papers and books provided clues about the knowledge work process; a laptop offers few such clues. A directory listing is pretty thin in terms of useful knowledge sharing content. In an analog process, it’s easy to discern the history and flow of work. When an executive takes a set of paper slides and rearranges them on a conference room floor, a hidden and compelling story line may be revealed. You can see, and learn from, this fresh point of experience. That’s lost when the same process occurs at a laptop keyboard at 35,000 feet. The gain in personal productivity occurs at the expense of organizational learning.

There are some lessons here for the way we work as academics. So little of what we do is visible that we can sometimes find it difficult to follow our own trails let alone those of others.

(Via elearnspace.)